Background: The fungus Ashbya gossypii is an important industrial producer of the vitamin riboflavin. Using this microbe, riboflavin is manufactured in a two-stage process based on a rich medium with vegetable oil, yeast extract and different precursors: an initial growth and a subsequent riboflavin production phase. So far, our knowledge on the intracellular metabolic fluxes of the fungus in this complex process is limited, but appears highly relevant to better understand and rationally engineer the underlying metabolism. To quantify intracellular fluxes of growing and riboflavin producing A. gossypii, studies with different 13C tracers were embedded into a framework of experimental design, isotopic labeling analysis by MS and NMR techniques, and model-based data processing. The studies included the use 13C of yeast extract, a key component used in the process.
Results: During growth, the TCA cycle was found highly active, whereas the cells exhibited a low flux through gluconeogenesis as well as pentose phosphate pathway. Yeast extract was the main carbon donor for anabolism, while vegetable oil selectively contributed to the proteinogenic amino acids glutamate, aspartate, and alanine. During the subsequent riboflavin biosynthetic phase, the carbon flux through the TCA cycle remained high. Regarding riboflavin formation, most of the vitamin's carbon originated from rapeseed oil (81 ± 1%), however extracellular glycine and yeast extract also contributed with 9 ± 0% and 8 ± 0%, respectively. In addition, advanced yeast extract-based building blocks such as guanine and GTP were directly incorporated into the vitamin.
Conclusion: Intracellular carbon fluxes for growth and riboflavin production on vegetable oil provide the first flux insight into a fungus on complex industrial medium. The knowledge gained therefrom is valuable for further strain and process improvement. Yeast extract, while being the main carbon source during growth, contributes valuable building blocks to the synthesis of vitamin B2. This highlights the importance of careful selection of the right yeast extract for a process based on its unique composition.
Keywords: 13C tracer; Ashbya gossypii; Industrial process; Metabolic flux; Riboflavin; Vitamin B2; Yeast extract.